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Bears eye first ‘complete game’ on defense

They’ve gone three games without blinking, even when it seemed the best way to watch the Bears’ defense, at times, was with your eyes closed.

New York Giants v Chicago Bears
Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano gives instructions Sunday against the Giants.
Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Bears’ defense can be sure of this much Sunday at Soldier Field — its first play against the Colts won’t be nearly as bad as the one from last week, when Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan found Calvin Ridley for a 63-yard pass play that ended at the Bears’ 1.

“Our expectations are high,” outside linebacker Robert Quinn said this week. “We don’t ever want to give up plays like that. We want to play dominant defense from the first snap to the last snap.

“But I guess going through that sort of adversity, you can look guys in the eyes and tell how they’re going to react. And guys didn’t blink.”

They’ve gone three games without blinking, even when it seemed like the best way to watch the Bears’ defense, at times, was with your eyes closed.

The Bears gave up 23 points in the first 42 minutes of their season opener against the Lions and 26 in the first 35 minutes against the Falcons. They allowed 13 points in the second half to a Giants team that totaled 25 in their other two games.

And still: They’re 3-0.

“No matter how it looks — we can be losing all game to the very last second — and all that matters is we’re winning,” Quinn said. “We’ve got another one this week. And no matter how it looks, as long as we’ve got one more point than the Colts, then we did a great job.”

The Bears’ big-play bugaboo is reason for concern — particularly considering that one of their three opponents this season, the Giants, ranks last in points and yards.

The Bears have allowed 13 rushes of 10 yards or more — only seven teams have given up more. They’ve allowed 11 passes of 20 yards or more — and, again, only seven teams have given up more.

But they do what good teams do when it matters.

“We’ve had our issues from time to time — again, with the run game — but we’re playing good situational football,” defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said. “We’ve got to put together a complete game and not give up those explosive runs, the explosive passes. We’ve got to eliminate those.

“But the guys have been doing a really nice job in the red area, third down, end of half, end of game, the two-minute situations, sudden change. All those have been really good, and the guys have done a great job.”

The Bears are the third-best team in the NFL — behind the Chargers and Cardinals — in opponent red-zone touchdown percentage. Teams score touchdowns 41.7% of the time they reach the Bears’ 20.

Two of those red-zone stops came at the gun — against the Lions and Giants with the game on the line. That contributed to the Bears’ 20.7 points-allowed average, which is ninth in the NFL.

The Bears have had four “sudden change” situations, taking the field immediately after their offense turned the ball over. On those drives, they’ve given up nine points and allowed 4.1 yards per play — almost 1½ yards less than their 5.5 average.

“I do feel like, situationally, we’ve been pretty good,” coach Matt Nagy said.

Otherwise, the Bears are average. They give up 364 yards per game, which ranks 15th in the league. Their seven sacks are tied for 13th. They’re 14th in fumble recoveries and 18th in interceptions.

But, again, they’re undefeated.

“In football, when you keep points off the board — I feel like we’re doing a good job of that — you know, that’s probably the reason we’re winning games,” cornerback Buster Skrine said.

Just think what would happen if the defense dominated for 60 minutes.

“So now it’s, ‘Just put together a complete game,’ ” Pagano said.